Dealers Worry about Jaguar’s Future
Uncertainty hurts sales, brand image and dealer morale
By JASON STEIN | AUTOMOTIVE NEWS EUROPE
Jaguar dealers fear a purchase by the Chinese . They say it would be more difficult to sell premium cars if the brand is owned by the Chinese.
Jaguar dealers across Europe want the British automaker to stay in North American or European hands if parent Ford Motor decides to sell the brand.
Some dealers said they would prefer Renault-Nissan if they were aksed to pick a future partner. Many fear the possibility of Jaguar being bought by a Chinese manufacturer, even though no Chinese party officially has expressed an interest in the company.
“I am scared to death of seeing Jaguar end up in Chinese hands,” said Franco Santi, a Jaguar and Aston Martin dealer in Rome since 1967.
Last year Santi sold 400 new Jaguars. He sold 500 in his best years.
“Renault looks to be the best potential deal,” he said.
Wolfgang Wienbrügge, a store manager at Jaguar Kreuzer in Saarbrücken, Germany, said he wants Jaguar to stay in the Ford family.
“We’d prefer to stay with Ford rather than being sold to some private investors or a Chinese carmaker,” he said. “If that happens, it would be even harder to communicate the ‘premium’ spirit.”
Last Thursday, Ford said it is considering selling all or part of its Aston Martin British luxury sports car brand as part of a strategic review of its business. The review has created speculation that Ford also may sell its Jaguar and Land Rover brands, which, like Aston Martin, are part of Ford’s Premier Automotive Group.
PAG reported a pre-tax loss of $162 million (about €126 million) for the second quarter, compared with a pre-tax profit of $17 million for the same period last year.
A private equity group has had preliminary discussions with Ford about the possible sale of the automaker’s European brands, media reports say. Former Ford CEO Jacques Nasser is a partner in that company.
British construction machinery group JCB said last month that it is interested in acquiring Jaguar, but only if it is split from Land Rover.
Jaguar dealers told Automotive News Europe that the rumors hurt business.
“Every distraction has negative effects on the image and that means negative effects for the dealers,” said Manfred Hauswirth, spokesman for the German Jaguar Dealer Association.
Robert Macnab, a research director at Trendtracker, a UK-based auto analysis firm that covers retail and dealer issues, agrees that the sale speculation is bad for Jaguar.
“The retail and consumer side has not been particularly affected, but there may have been some impact on dealer morale,” Macnab said.
Hauswirth said Jaguar dealers are worried about what would motivate a potential Jaguar buyer.
“It would pose a threat to the brand when someone buys Jaguar only for strategic reasons, then only to have the brand sell [a Chinese brand such as] Landwind,” Hauswirth said. “We need a buyer who wants to keep Jaguar as a premium brand.”
Jaguar has cost Ford in excess of $10 billion since it acquired the brand in 1989. It’s still not profitable and it continues to restructure.
Dealers are preparing for change.
Said dealer Wienbrügge: “I’ve already tried to book a Chinese language course.”
Luca Ciferri, Matthias Karpstein, Tony Lewin, Sylviane de Saint-Seine contributed